Dinosaurs and Other Mesozoic Reptiles of California

Dinosaurs and Other Mesozoic Reptiles of California

RICHARD P. HILTON
ILLUSTRATED BY KEN KIRKLAND
FOREWORD BY KEVIN PADIAN
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 356
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnmc3
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  • Book Info
    Dinosaurs and Other Mesozoic Reptiles of California
    Book Description:

    One of the most geologically complex and diverse states, California spent much of the age of dinosaurs under water. While most of the fossils found in the state are those of reptiles that lived in the sea (thalattosaurs, ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, plesiosaurs, and turtles), some are those of birds and pterosaurs that soared above it. Other fossils come from terrestrial animals that died and were washed into the ocean. These include turtles, crocodiles, lizards, and dinosaurs such as armored ankylosaurs, duck-billed hadrosaurs, and a variety of carnivorous dinosaurs. Richard Hilton is the first to tell the unsung story of the dinosaurs and reptiles of land, sea, and sky that lived in California and Baja California during the Mesozoic era (245 million-65 million years ago), in addition to the history of their discovery. Vibrantly illustrated with more than three hundred photographs, paintings, and drawings, this book provides geological and environmental details, describes the significance of the major fossils, and chronicles the adventures involved in the discovery, preparation, and publishing of the finds. Hilton also includes accounts of the scientists, teachers, students, ranchers, and weekend fossil hunters who endured (and continue to endure) harsh weather, fires, wild animals, and the usual challenges of fieldwork to collect fossil remains and make major discoveries. These enthusiasts managed to safeguard an abundance of fossil resources, some of which would otherwise have been destroyed by quarrying, paving, and housing developments.Dinosaurs and Other Mesozoic Reptiles of Californiatakes this legacy one step further by documenting information about the fossils and their finders in accessible prose and vivid artistic renderings, creating a valuable contribution to our understanding of California's prehistoric past.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92845-9
    Subjects: Paleontology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xx)
  4. FOREWORD
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
    KEVIN PADIAN

    California is probably not the first state where one might expect to find dinosaur remains. Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, New Mexico, Texas—even Jersey, the first “dinosaur hunting grounds” in the United States—spring more readily mind. But California, one of the largest states and one of the most complex geologically, contains its share of dinosaur fossils. It also boasts a great diversity of other fossil reptiles that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs, especially marine reptiles, which are among the best examples in the world.

    Because much of California was under the sea during...

  5. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
  6. PREFACE
    (pp. xxvii-xxviii)
  7. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-4)

    ON JUNE 11, 1936, seventeen-year-old Allan Bennison pedaled his bicycle from his San Joaquin Valley home near Gustine to the hills of western Stanislaus County, thirty-five miles away. For two years—inspired by high school fossil-collecting trips when living in Monterey County—he had been scouring the stream-cut canyons where 70-million-year-old marine rocks were exposed, looking for fossil shells. On this day he found something unexpected: fossilized bones. Bennison reported his discovery to his high school science teacher, M. Merrill Thompson, and together they alerted the paleontology department at the University of California, Berkeley. Paleontologist Samuel P. Welles, curatorial assistant...

  8. PART I CALIFORNIA DURING THE AGE OF REPTILES
    • [PART I Introduction]
      (pp. 5-8)

      SPANNING 180 MILLION YEARS, the Mesozoic Era, which began 245 million years before present (MYBP) and ended only 65 MYBP, is relatively recent in the 4.5-billion-year history of Earth. Fossils of primitive life found in rocks more than 3.5 billion years old show us that life has been evolving on Earth for an extremely long time. By the middle of the Mesozoic, life had become very sophisticated. This was especially true of reptiles, which had radiated out to fill a myriad of niches in a wonderful variety of forms.

      On land, dinosaurs were especially successful, and each dinosaur evolved to...

    • 1 GEOLOGIC HISTORY
      (pp. 9-28)

      AT THE BEGINNING of the Mesozoic Era, much of what is now California consisted of islands and ocean bottom. By the end of the Mesozoic, California had grown considerably, and many of its major features—the Klamath Mountains, the Sierra Nevada, the Mojave Desert, and the Peninsular Ranges—were present in their early forms. These geologic changes, which corresponded to changes in the environments in which dinosaurs and other reptiles could live, were the result of large-scale movements in the Earth’s crust, driven by the process of plate tectonics.

      The crust of the Earth resembles the broken shell of a...

    • 2 THE DINOSAURS
      (pp. 29-68)

      THE TERMDINOSAUR, meaning “fearfully great reptile,” was first used by the British anatomist Richard Owen in 1842, who recognized that fragmentary fossils that had been found locally in England were those of unusually huge reptiles. As more and more dinosaur fossils were found throughout the world it became apparent that dinosaurs were different from their other reptilian relatives, and eventually two major groups were distinguished.

      Dinosaurs were the result of evolutionary changes that took place in reptiles during the Paleozoic Era. Approximately 325 million years ago, reptiles evolved from a basal tetrapod (ancestral four-legged vertebrate). By the close of...

    • 3 THE FLYING REPTILES
      (pp. 69-78)

      FLIGHT IS A COMPLICATED FUNCTION that took life literally billions of years to achieve. Insects were the first masters of the sky, evolving wings nearly 400 million years ago. It was not until the Mesozoic that reptiles achieved flight, and it took until the Cenozoic before mammals (bats) took to the air. Although today we have flying fish, flying squirrels, and even flying lizards, these are not true flyers but, rather, sophisticated gliders. Very specialized bones, muscles, and respiratory and circulatory sophistication are required to achieve the incredible coordination and stamina necessary for sustained flight.

      Fossils of Mesozoic flying reptiles—...

    • 4 THE MARINE REPTILES
      (pp. 79-122)

      ON THE GALÁPAGOS ISLANDS, six hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador, land iguanas that probably rafted on masses of vegetation to the sparsely vegetated island shores turned to the sea for sustenance. They evolved into marine iguanas (see fig. 4.1). Today they are often found basking in the sun to warm their bodies; after sufficient warming they plod to the ocean and, with legs folded back, undulate their body and flattened tail to swim out from shore. Diving through the cool salt water, they graze the bottom for seaweed, spending half an hour or more before returning to shore...

  9. PART II THE HISTORY OF DISCOVERY
    • [PART II Introduction]
      (pp. 123-126)

      THE DISCOVERERS of Mesozoic reptile remains are for the most part scientists, although a few are amateurs. (I use the wordscientistrather thanpaleontologistbecause many of the people involved in fossil hunting were not formally schooled in paleontology.) Scientists, with their knowledge and training, study fossil remains and then publish information about them. This brings the discovery to the scientific community, where other scientists might further study the specimen and perhaps gain even more information from it and make new interpretations. But scientists and amateur bone hunters are only part of the story. From the finding of new...

    • 5 THE NORTHERN PROVINCES
      (pp. 127-226)

      THE NORTHERN PROVINCES encompass all of California north of the Transverse Ranges, which dissect the state in an east-west fashion just north of the Los Angeles Basin. We begin our historical tour of discoveries in the geological northern extension of the Sierra Nevada called the Klamath Mountains Province. It is in this province that all the numerous Triassic marine reptile finds have been made and much of the stimulating early history of discovery happened. We then slip south to the Sierra Nevada, where, despite the scarcity of Mesozoic reptiles, the perseverance of scientists has paid off. From the Sierra we...

    • 6 THE SOUTHERN PROVINCES
      (pp. 227-256)

      THE SOUTHERN PROVINCES begin just north of the Los Angeles Basin in the Transverse Ranges Province, an area with relatively few important Mesozoic reptilian discoveries. To the east of the Transverse Ranges Province lies the Mojave Desert Province, where dinosaur trackways in the Aztec Sandstone provide a glimpse into the lives of desert-dwelling dinosaurs. The bulk of this chapter focuses on one of the most productive and exciting areas of discovery, the Peninsular Ranges, a series of mountains that run from the Los Angeles Basin to the tip of Baja California. Here we find tales of discovery and paleontological struggle...

  10. APPENDIX: Summary of the Mesozoic Reptilian Fossils of California
    (pp. 257-278)
  11. GLOSSARY
    (pp. 279-284)
  12. MUSEUMS AND WEBSITES TO VISIT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CALIFORNIA MESOZOIC REPTILE FOSSILS
    (pp. 285-286)
  13. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 287-300)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 301-318)